Did you ever come up with an idea for a movie, only to see somebody else come up with a similar idea and release it as a summer blockbuster, that ended up making tons of money, and left you shaking your head in disgust. Muttering to yourself... "That was MY idea!"
Well, did you? It did to me. Well, sort of...
I say sort of, because this is a 'sort of' kind of story. Let me try and explain.
About 12 or 13 years ago, I was feeling pretty lost. I knew that I wanted to write movies, but I lacked the drive and the ambition to take that extra step. Still do, but things are looking up... sort of. I was at the library at the time, since I didn't own a computer, and I was doing a search on 'movies' in general, and I happen to stumble across a website called 'The Motion-Picture Industry: Behind-The-Scenes' .
This website boasted a 'simulator' that you could use, to assemble your own little movie...using the 'already filmed' available scenes, in order to produce a box-office hit. You would choose the writer, the actor, etc. You would give it your own title. And then, you would choose which shots were the best shots to use, in order to produce your 'hit'.
They even had a mock box-office chart, showing how well your movie did upon release; ranking among the hundreds of others who had dreams of making it big. It was all too perfect.
I did the simulator ( a few dozen times ), and I started to think... 'Hey, I could do this!'. I noticed an advertisement on the website, announcing a 'short screenplay contest'. The winner would have his/her screenplay produced into a short movie to go onto the website, and the runners-up would have their short screenplays 'looked at', by top studio executives in the Hollywood business. Wow! All for a short screenplay? Where do I sign up?
Reading the rules and whatnot, I dove right in. The short screenplay had to be between 1 to 3 pages long. That was pretty much it. The website provided it's own template in order to write the screenplay, so there was no emailing it in. No problem. I sat for a minute or two, and then I came up with a simple idea that I felt could easily be written, without too much plot structure or anything.
( This was a 1 to 3 page screenplay. I mean, how much plot can you have jam into 1 to 3 pages? Rhetorical question, don't answer. )
After a minute or so of brainstorming, I started to write. First, the title... "The House". I liked the title. It suited the story. The story being about a 'spooky, almost monstrous looking HOUSE' near the end of a cul de sac, in a residential neighborhood.
I won't go into the details of the screenplay, but it was a fairly decent effort on my part, and I felt pretty good about my chances. Actually, I was full of wishful thinking, but hey... one could dream, right. I finished the short screenplay, did the necessary clicking here and there in order to send it through, and that was that. The deadline hadn't reached it's end yet, so I had some waiting to do. No problem. I had a job, a so-called life...I was good.
WHY THE HELL HAVEN'T THESE GUYS CONTACTED ME YET?!!
Ok, maybe it wasn't like that, but I was definitely curious about the outcome of the contest. I was smelling the sweet, sweet smell of success and it was just around the corner. I knew it was. But I had to be patient. Good things come to those who wait, or at least that's what I've heard over the years. That saying probably came from somebody who had waited a long, long time. Still, I had to be patient.
Finally, after almost giving up on it, I received an email from an affiliate or member of the website, informing me that my 'short screenplay' was 1 of 3 runners-up in the contest. Needless to say, I was a bit overjoyed. And yet, I was wondering...'Runner up? You mean, I didn't win?!' Hey, beggars can't be choosers, right? Or something like that.
Even though I didn't win the contest, I was happy and elated that my little masterpiece was chosen as 1 of 3 runners-up. Ok, so now what?
Well, the affiliate or member of the website also informed me, that the winning screenplay would be produced into a short film, and that the 'runners-up' would now have each of their screenplays showcased, as part of a new 'interactive simulator' section of the website. For all to interact with, etc. It all sounded really cool to me. I was definitely on board.
A member of the website was assigned to me, and he kept me updated with the progress of the whole thing. It was a very interesting couple of weeks that followed, which included emails of project updates, and news that a few of the studios had really shown an interest in the 3 runner up screenplays. An interest how? What sort of interested had they shown? All I knew was that one of the studios was Twentieth Century Fox. Wow!
I was now beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. I mean, this was out of my radius.
The emails continued as did the updates, and things started to click along. But then, it hit a snag. Something happened, I don't know what exactly. The website decided to scrap the idea of the new 'interactive simulator' project, and just go ahead and produce each screenplay into a short film for the website. Why? I don't know. But, it sounded good to me. My screenplay was actually going to be produced into a short film, rather than have it diced apart in some new 'interactive simulator'. Let's do this!
New emails started to come, and I was assigned a guy who was handling 'my' screenplay. He was a cool guy, and he was very enthusiastic about the project. His idea was to produce the short film as a claymation. Like those old 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' and 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' animation shorts. Awesome!! "Let's do it!", I said. He was on it.
Next couple of weeks, he sent me emails with pics of the model of the house, and the claymation characters that he was working on. All fascinating stuff, really. The excitement was beginning to build. I told all of my family members ( and what friends I had ), that I was having one of my screenplays produced into a movie. I was on cloud nine.
The progress continued, and the emails kept coming. The pics showed that this thing was really gonna happen. The house looked cool, and the claydough-looking kids were really starting to become real to me. Creepy, but real. It was all coming together.
I stopped receiving emails from the guy. I emailed him, concerned as to why I hadn't heard from him in amost a week or so, but no response. Finally, he emailed me back and told me that he was having trouble with working a job and also doing this project. It was beginning to be a lot more work for him, and that he would try and do as much as he can, when he could.
Stuff like that. Hmmm... He had to work a 'real' job? You mean, this wasn't his job? The website wasn't paying him to do this? All relevant questions.
So, I told him to do what he could and hopefully everything would work out. Well, eventually the emails became fewer and farther in between, and the whole 'project' just sort of went away. Just like that. It just dissipated. I tried contacting the guy in charge, but I got no response. I tried contacting the website, but got no response. Then, I received an email from one of the other 'runners-up'. She was also disappointed that her project just went away, and she was left in the dark.
Now, I'm not holding some sort of 12 or 13 year grudge or anything, since stuff like that happens all the time, I'm sure. But it would've been nice to have had some sort of explanation.
A few years passed, and I saw a trailer for an animated film called 'Monster House', that was soon to be released. And I instantly remembered the screenplay contest that never was. I didn't see the movie 'Monster House', but it sure showed a slight resemblance to MY short screenplay.
Recently, as I was thinking of writing this blog, I researched 'Monster House' a little and found out that a story by Stephen King, in one of his 'gunslinger' novels I think, had a Monster-type house or something like that in it. I didn't look into it any further, because I didn't need to.
'Monster House' probably didn't take my idea. I'm sure it probably took Stephen King's idea, who knows. Great minds think alike, I guess.
I just would have liked to have seen 'my idea' as a movie, like promised. Those claymation little kids deserved that much!
Here's the website that used to be The Motion-Picture Industry: Behind-The-Scenes.